Written By Thomas Perez. February 22, 2011 at 7:33pm. Copyright 2011.
Prelude: Thought On the Resurrection
In theology, one of the most important doctrines concerns the humanity of the Lord Jesus. Some would have it that after His resurrection the Lord was no longer human at all, that He there upon was exalted to Divine nature; that He gave up His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51), and exists now as spirit only. It has been maintained that flesh and bones and blood are “corruption,” and therefore cannot inherit incorruptibility.
I maintain that if these things are true, the grand doctrine of the Word or Logos is totally destroyed, while the title “The Son of Humanity” becomes meaningless. Moreover, if the divine deity of Christ in bodily form is destroyed, then how can Jesus be the second Adam? I ask this question because the Bible reveals that Jesus is a descendant from the lineage of Adam as indicated in Luke’s Gospel 3:23-37. In fact the whole book is a attribute to Jesus’ humanity. Jesus bodily physical form must be maintained if the Preterist is to believe that Jesus is the second Adam. For He must remain the second Adam if His role as Melchizedek is to function as they indicted by citing Ps. 110:4: “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
But the Preterist would cite that such a verse would indicate a world of ongoing existence pertaining to sin in this new Heaven and New Earth. Yet did not the Preterist indicate that “the Bible describes the Kingdom of Christ on earth as a kingdom that will increase until it covers “the whole earth” “as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9; Dan 2:35; cf. Matt. 13:33). According to the Scriptures, it will increase on earth until all of God’s enemies are “under His feet” (I Cor. 15:25). The Scriptures further say that the Kingdom will bring blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3; Ps. 22:7); to “all the nations” (Matt. 28:19; Ps. 72:17; Ps. 86:9); to “all men” (Isa. 66:23), even to “the very ends of the earth” (Ps. Ps. 2:8; 22:27; 72:8; Isa. 11:9; Zech. 9:10; Acts 1:8; 13:47)”.
A logical question to ask is ,when are the enemies of God placed under His feet? You may have noticed the word “UNTIL”, it begs to ask the question “UNTIL” when? Something has got to end – for they have just admitted it to be so. If they are to take a position of defense and claim that Christ has indeed placed His enemies under His foot via 70AD, then my question to them would be “How many times does our Messiah have to keep crushing His enemies, just how long does the word “UNTIL” go on? If it goes on forever, then the word “UNTIL” looses’ it’s definition of the meaning. Moreover, it should also be noticed that Preterist’s believe the earth will go on, and on, and on, without end. Therefore, we are at a stalemate, with Christ interceding in the role of Melchizedek.
But what saith the Scripture’s? In the book Hebrews we have the name ‘Melchizedek’ also mentioned,. It is mentioned in Chapters 5 & 7. But when we read the chapters as a whole – (chapters 5 – 10:25), we will note that the author of Hebrews indicated that we must hold fast to our confession – the confession that Melchizedek/Jesus has FLESH (10:19). And that His ministry of sacrifice did end (as in Christ being crucified once), and will end (meaning God’s program of salvation will end). However, in reference to His intercession & His title as intercessor will not end, as rendered by the phrase “Thou art forever a Priest, after the order of Melchizedek”. This is indicated by the word “COME”. The Greek word for the word for “come” (‘proserchomai’) in this instance is in the verb present tense. Therefore, the word indicates that Jesus continues to save those who keep coming to Him. Our justification is a once-for-all event accomplished on the cross, (thus the term ‘justification’ is an present tense action verb), but our sanctification is a continuing process “UNTIL” we receive our glorification. Since this verse speaks of Jesus’ present intercession for us, the word save in this verse speaks of our sanctification, the continuing process by which we are free from the power of sin. In this sanctification – that so many over look – we have a Church that is spotless and without blemish or wrinkle, or any such thing, but instead she is holy through the process of sanctification (Eph 5:25-26). And again (and this is most vital) this holy, unblemished, sanctified Church are member’s of His Flesh and of His Bones (vs. 30). Some will argue that the NU text omit’s the words “flesh and bones”. But it doesn’t matter, if we are to understand the text. After the omitted text’s of verse 30-31, we have the word MYSTERY in verse 32 which is in conjunction with vs. 30 . And what is this mystery? It is the mystery of Jesus’ FLESH body – for this is confirmed in I Tim 3:16.…“And Great is the MYSTERY of godliness, God was manifested in the FLESH.” Thus is the goal of our sanctification to be one in Christ (John 17)….Let me explain sanctification in simplistic terms. We have…
1. Positional Sanctification
This is possessed by every believer and nonbeliever, although unknown unto them, until they hear the call of the evangel. It is from the moment of conversion, he/she has perfect standing in holiness. (Eph 1:4,7, 14, I Cor 6:11) As in the past and present tense. It is given as an unmerited call from the Christ unto all men.
2. Progressive Sanctification
After we hear such a call, we become disciples or followers, if you will. It is the daily growth in grace becoming in practice more and more set apart for God’s use (Jn 17:17, I Cor 3:1-2, Eph 5:26, I Pet 2:2). As in the present tense only. It is our preparation for the harvest.
3. Ultimate Sanctification
This is attained only when we are fully and completely set apart to God at the resurrection of the just. When the corruptible shall put on the incorruptible. Forever being separated from evil and sin. When death is destroyed (I Cor 15: 26, Eph 5:26-27). As in the future tense (at the actual harvest).
Out of the three, I would assume that the Preterist will admit to number’s 1 & 2. But number 3 will cause dissention, since they believe that the term ultimate sanctification implies something that (when seen in connection with the others) is of the future tense. Yet did not the Preterist quote: “Whether or not “forever” is literally infinite aeons or indefinite aeons with a theoretical end, it is still as far into the future as the Bible goes. The Bible says nothing of a termination to the forever-ness of Christ’s kingdom on Earth. We can Biblically say nothing about a “post-Christian age,” because there is no such thing”. The mere fact that they admitted to an end – though theoretical in thought, is to take a hypothetical approach, which means that there exists the possibility of age’s coming to an end. This is further illustrated in the citation of Ephesians 3:20-21 – upon which they quoted. But note the word AGE’S , also note the word ALL – as in the sum of ALL AGES’ S. A world without end – but the apparent use of the word age’s in this instance is the Greek word ghenehah, which denotes: an age, generation, nation, and time. This word is also found in Ephesians 3:4-5 pertaining to the mystery. It is a indication that the Church will not perish. It will always be the Bride of Christ for age’s, and eon’s. However, that truth doesn’t necessarily mean that the Church will not receive ultimate sanctification because Ephesians 5:26 (the same book I might add) indicates that we will.
Therefore, I cannot, with a clear conscience accept this preference; as pertaining to the topical question at hand as whole heartily, since it entails a denial of a Heavenly Physical body of Christ – a basic creedial Christian belief – And that belief is The physical Resurrection of Christ & ‘Eternal life in Christ Jesus’. This denial opens a can of worms. Nor can I accept the concept of continual sin/evil based on the “until” and its theoretical assumption pertaining to the word Aion, eon’s, etc. Which brings me to the next topic….
Topic 2: The Resurrection
A. Question: If the resurrection and destruction of the ungodly has happened, then who would have been left to preach and repopulate the earth?
Preterist Answer: The resurrected saints who inherited the new earth, and the “dogs” “outside the city” on the new earth both populate the earth today. It was the ungodly in God’s Kingdom (the Pharisees, etc; Matt. 13:41) who were destroyed in 70AD. It was the world of “His Kingdom” that was purged, not the planet. Generations of godly and ungodly men continue.
B. Question: What about people who have died who have never heard the name of Christ, the only name by which you can be saved, and people who just don’t understand the gospel. How do the Preterists see these things?
Preterist Answer: In my understanding, a Preterist world view, Scripturally applied, strongly reinforces the necessity of true obedience in all men, as it is in the Preterist teaching that the holy “God Himself” (Rev. 21:3) lives among us, and in us, in perfect fulfillment of all things written. He is not in some sense absent from us, or looking down on men’s iniquities from a distance. And to the degree that He is among men, all people are that much more accountable to have a saving knowledge of Him.
It is because God is pure and holy that the Scriptures tell us that, “Nothing impure will ever enter [the City and Tabernacle and Kingdom of God, which is the universal Church], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27). Only the imputed righteousness of the Lamb received by faith can make any man able to stand in the Presence of God.
C. Question: Do you believe that all the graves of saints are already empty?
Preterist Answer:Yes. Ezekiel 37:1-14: “The hand of the Lord…carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry….Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live; and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land…” (Ezek. 37:1,2,5-14).
This passage equates the resurrection of Israel out of their “graves,” with God putting His Spirit in them and placing them in their own Land. Preterists see this as having been completely fulfilled in 70, when the New Jerusalem (which replaced the old, destroyed Jerusalem) came down from God. The New Jerusalem is that “Land of Israel” to which the patriarchs of Israel (and Ezekiel) looked: Hebrews 11:10: [Abraham] looked for a City which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. (cf. Rev. 21:14) Hebrews 11:16: [People like Abraham] desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He has prepared for them a city. When the Heavenly Country/Land/City came down from heaven in 70, then God made His eternal Spirit-dwelling in Israel (the Church –Eph. 2:22), having brought His elect out from their “graves” of spiritual death into their eternal dwellings of spiritual life.
D Question: Is hell, according to the full Preterist, a place of only spiritual torment for the non-believer, or is there a physical and bodily torment involved as well?
Preterist Answer: The word “hell” does not always refer strictly to the “afterlife” state. Often times it has application to the judgment of people on Earth. For instance, in Matt. 11:23; Lk. 10:15, Jesus said of the city of Capernaum, “You …who have been exalted to heaven, will be thrown down to hell (Greek: Hades).” (KJV) What “Hades” immediately –but not exclusively or ultimately– referred to there was Capernaum’s physical destruction. She was going to be “brought down to hades” even as she had been “exalted to heaven.”
Similarly, Matt. 5:29,30; 18:9; Mk. 9:43,45,47, speaks of “the whole body” being thrown into “hell” (Greek: Gehenna). The “body” in those verses is a church-body, and the proximate reference for “Gehenna” there is a physical judgment on Earth, specifically the biblical Judgment that came upon the world in the first century A. D. according to Rev. 3:10 –the same judgment in which Capernaum was thrown down to Hades.
The fact that the terms hell / Hades / Gehenna (and their Hebrew counterparts) at times have an application to a physical, bodily judgment on Earth, has led some unqualified exegetes in the preterist camp (and others) to conclude that there is actually no such thing as hell (eternal conscious punishment) after physical death, that “hell” means only a judgment that can result in the annihilation of the body and soul.
Preterists irrationally conclude that the presence of “hell-torment” on Earth somehow necessarily precludes “hell-torment” after death. They see a verse like Matt. 10:28, which speaks of “both soul and body” being killed in hell (Gehenna), and conclude that since the “body” is utterly destroyed in death, then the “soul” must also be utterly and absolutely destroyed (annihilated) when it dies. The annihilationist rush to this conclusion even though the Scriptures speak throughout of souls that were “killed” or were “dead” and yet continued to consciously exist. See for example: Rom. 7:9,11; 8:6; II Cor. 3:6; Eph. 2:1,5; 5:14; Col. 2:13; Heb. 9:27; James. 1:15; I Jn. 3:14; Jude 12.
Luke 16:23 explicitly speaks of a physically dead man “in torments in hell (Hades).” It has been disturbing to see annihilationists brazenly claim that the story takes place in a make-believe setting, that its portrayal of a physically dead man in torments has absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever and that Jesus was actually using pagan mythology as the backdrop for His teaching. The annihilationists annihilate the facts of the story of Lazarus and the rich man in order to justify their denial of the Scriptural teaching that God eternally punishes the unredeemed.
The terms “Hades” and “Gehenna” do sometimes have an application to God’s judgment of certain people on Earth –a physical, bodily torment and death – but the terms further and ultimately speak of God’s judgment of sinners after their physical death. We would be correct to say that Capernaum was metaphorically thrown down to Hades when it was physically destroyed, and that its wicked dead ones forever and consciously remained in Hell / Hades / Gehenna from that point onward, as Matt. 25:46 teaches:
“These shall go away into eternal (eonian) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (eonian) life.”
Luke 12:5 likewise teaches that after the death of the unredeemed, God casts them “into Gehenna,” the eternally burning fire of God wrath:
“But I will warn you whom to fear: Fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Lk. 12:5)
May we all listen to Jesus in Luke 12:5, and not to the annihilationists’ sugarcoating of God’s Eternal Judgment!
Now, having established that people physically and bodily taste “the judgment of hell (Gehenna / Hades)” on Earth, and having shown that the annihilationists shut their eyes to the “afterlife” reality of hell, here is a direct answer to your question about what preterists believe about the nature of eternal punishment after death:
Since all Preterists deny that the Resurrection of the dead (Acts 24:15) was fleshly / biological, all preterists necessarily believe that the eternal punishment of the dead is a spiritual torment.
I noticed in your question that you asked if Preterists believe that Hell is “only” spiritual. I gather from that wording that you may think that a “spiritual” torment is by definition less severe than a “physical” torment. If that is what you were suggesting, remember that Satan, who is a spirit, is said to be in the Lake of Fire, being “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). We should not suppose that his “spiritual” torment is less severe than any “physical” torment.
E Question: Doesn’t II Tim. 2:17-18 disprove preterism? Aren’t Preterists obviously teaching the heresy of Hymeneus who taught that, “The resurrection is past already” (I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 2:17-18)?
Preterist Answer: But shun the profane, empty babblings; for they will advance to more ungodliness, and their word will have feeding as gangrene; of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus, who concerning the truth missed the mark, saying the Resurrection has already come, and overturn the faith of some (II Tim. 2:16-18). II Tim. 2:16-18 neither proves nor disproves preterism or futurism. How we interpret that passage depends entirely on which eschatological assumption we take to it.
If we read the passage with the futurist assumption we will reason that Hymeneus and Philetus were not only wrong about the timing of the Resurrection but that they were also wrong about the nature of the Resurrection. We will reason that they must have been denying a biological Resurrection of the dead and were teaching instead a purely spiritual or inward Resurrection, since that is the only way they could have convinced anyone that the biological Resurrection of the Dead was past. We will conclude that the faith of some was overturned because Hymeneus and Philetus had led them to reject the doctrine of the fleshly Resurrection of the Dead. (In the futurist view, the seriousness of Hymeneus and Philetus’ error had to do with the nature of the Resurrection, even though Paul condemned only the timing.)
If we read the passage with the preterist assumption we will reason that the error of Hymeneus and Philetus was that they were teaching that the Resurrection was realized under the Law (I Tim. 1:8; Titus 1:10; 3:9). We will reason that they were teaching that “the Hope of Israel” (Acts 23:6; 24:15, 21; 28:20) was already fulfilled and that there would therefore never be a Parousia of Christ to bring about a termination of the old-covenant age (II Tim. 4:8; II Peter 3:4). We will conclude that their error implied that fleshly Israel had inherited the Kingdom and would remain God’s nation forever.
If the Resurrection was fulfilled and the old-covenant kingdom continued, that meant that the apostate, reprobate, authority-reviling, Gentile-excluding and saints-persecuting enemies of Christ, and their spiritual ancestors, were revealed to be the true sons of God. Thus the doctrine of a pre-A.D.-70 Resurrection was anti-Gospel, anti-grace and anti-Christ. It was without a doubt a faith-overturning blasphemy (I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 2:18).
We don’t know what date Hymeneus and Philetus assigned to the Resurrection, but they possibly believed that the Jewish Revolt against Rome which began in November of A.D. 66 signified the coming of the Resurrection (II Timothy was written in about A.D. 67.). Whatever pre-70 date they proposed though was a malignant, judaizing falsehood. Contrary to their error, the fact that the earthly house (the old-covenant world) was still standing proved that Death had not yet been finally placed under the feet of Christ (I Cor. 15:24-27; Heb. 2:8) and that the universal body of the saints had therefore not yet been raised up to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (II Cor. 5:1-4; Heb. 9:8).
F Question: I assume that you do not believe in “soul sleep” such as the JW’s. So since the soul is not asleep but rather it is at “Abraham’s bosom” and since you do not believe in a physical resurrection of any sort for believers, what was “sleeping” in the verses which speak of “sleeping?” “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (I Thess. 4:14)
Preterist Answer: “Fell asleep” and “asleep” are euphemistic ways of saying “died” and “dead.” Modern sayings such as, “passed away” and “laid to rest,” have similar meanings. Expressions like these are not descriptive of an “after-life” condition. In the Old Testament, “sleep” describes the death of the wicked and the righteous alike.
G Qusetion: I would like to know since Jesus has already returned then what happens to us when we die? For I was raised thinking that we are waiting on Jesus to come back for his people.
Preterist Answer:This is one of the wonderful things about the preterist doctrine. In futurism, when we die our spirits go directly to be with God in Heaven, only to be taken away from Him some day and put back into our reconstituted, physical bodies on Earth.
In contrast, Preterists do not believe that Christians in Heaven have been waiting for centuries to leave Heaven and to be put back on a refurbished planet Earth. Preterists believe that when we die, we not only go immediately to be “with Christ,” (Phil. 1:23) but we stay with Him forever. “So shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thess. 4:17)
After we die, we “rest” and are “blessed,” because our “deeds” “follow with” us. (Rev. 14:13) To live on Earth is to do the works that our Father has ordained for us. (Eph. 2:10) To die is “gain.” (Phil. 1:21)
After we die, we are judged. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” (Heb. 9:27) We are saved by grace through faith in Christ’s blood, and when we die we are rewarded according to the works we did while we were in the body. (I Cor. 3:14; II Cor. 5:10)
After we die, we become “like angels.” (Matt. 22:30; Mk. 12:25; Lk. 20:36) In Heaven we will be spirits. (Heb. 12:23) Not naked, disembodied phantoms hovering about, but spirits in the way that God Himself is a Spirit (Jn. 4:24), and that the angels are spirits (Heb. 1:7; )
After we die, we enjoy every blessing that futurists on Earth today think we will not obtain until an allegedly future Parousia at an alleged end of the New Covenant Age.
When I think about what it will be like when we die, I think of Moses and Elijah on the “Mount of Transfiguration.” Those two men lived in glorious splendor and talked with Jesus, (Lk. 9:31) Who Himself was as radiant as the sun and as a flash of lightning before them. (Matt. 17:2; Lk. 9:29) Moses and Elijah were so glorious in their “afterlife state” that one of the Lord’s apostles wanted to build tabernacles for them. (Matt. 17:4)
Yet the Bible also tells us this: Not only was John the Baptist greater than Moses and Elijah, (Matt. 11:11; Lk. 7:28) but the very weakest of all Christians is greater than was John the Baptist:
“He that is least in the Kingdom is greater than [John the Baptist].” (Matt. 11:11; Lk. 7:28)
The glory of Moses (II Cor. 3:13) and Elijah, and of John the Baptist, as bright and as consuming as it was, was nothing in comparison to the eternal and transcendent Glory of “Christ in you.” (II Cor. 3:10-11; Col. 1:27; Heb. 11:39) The eternal Glory of the Kingdom of God (Lk. 17:21) is “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. …Amen!” (Eph. 3:20)
One of the three things that forever “remains” throughout the Christian Age is “Hope” (I Cor. 13:13). As individual believers today, our living Expectation (I Peter 1:3-4) is to be forever with the Lord and His holy ones in the unimaginable joys of Heaven.
“Comfort one another with these words.” (I Thess. 4:18)
H Question: What do you do with Job 19:26 where it speaks of a fleshly resurrection?
Preterist Answer: Here is a literal translation of Job 19:25-26 “For [or “Yet”] I know that my Kinsman-Redeemer [or “Avenger” or “Vindicator”] is living, and at last He shall arise [or “stand”] on the dust [or “earth”]. Even after they surround [or “destroy”] my skin, yet this: From [or “without”] my flesh I shall see God….” (Job 19:25-26)…and at last He shall arise [or “stand”] on the dust [or “earth”]…In this statement, Job could have been prophesying of a time after his death when God would vindicate and deliver him. (Job 3:21-22; 6:8; 7:5-10,15-16,21; 14:14; 16:18; 17:1,13-16) Or Job could have been prophesying of a day within his lifetime when God would vindicate and deliver him. (Job 10:9; 13:15-21; 11:20-22; 23:10; 17:9; 23:10; 29:1-25; cf. Ps. 3:7) Either interpretation is possible….Even after they surround [or “destroy”] my skin…
Who were “they?” “They” could have been the “worms” and “dust” that were “covering” Job’s skin while he was yet alive, (Job 7:5) or they could have been the “worms” and “dust” of the grave. (Job 17:14; 21:26; 24:20) Or “they” could have been God’s “troops,” i.e., Job’s accusers and former friends who were “encompassing” him and who could not, metaphorically speaking, get enough of his “flesh.” (Job 10:17; 16:13; 19:12-20,22; 30:1-15; 31:31; Ps. 14:4; 27:2) Any of these interpretations is possible….From [or “without”]in my flesh shall I see God. Here Job could have meant, “from the vantage point of my flesh,” that it to say, “looking out from my flesh I shall see God.” Or Job could have meant, “from outside of my flesh,” that is, “free from my flesh I shall see God.” Either interpretation is possible. In light of the above possible interpretations, there are four basic possibilities as to the meaning of Job’s prophecy:
1. Job expected to die from his afflictions, and to be delivered and vindicated at a non-fleshly resurrection at the Last Day.
2. Job expected to die from his afflictions, and to be delivered and vindicated in Sheol.
3. Job expected to be vindicated and delivered from all his afflictions, and to see God within his own lifetime, before he died, while still in his flesh.
4. Job expected to die from his afflictions, and to be delivered and vindicated in a “resurrection of the flesh” at the Last Day.
Due to the difficulties in translating this prophecy, expositors and translators have rendered Job’s meaning in these four different lights. Which position one takes depends not simply on one’s skill as a translator or on one’s understanding of the overall meaning of the book of Job, but to an extent on one’s personal eschatological presuppositions.
All Preterists reject #4, which option incidentally enjoys the least amount of scholarly support, and is the only option that contradicts the Preterist view. (This option is also quickly eliminated when we see that Job explicitly denies a resurrection of the flesh in Job 14:7-12.). I think that the majority of modern scholarly opinion has gone with #2, although it seems to me that Job 10:21-22; 17:13-16 contradicts the idea that Job was expecting a deliverance / vindication in Sheol. Most preterists, if I’m not mistaken, choose option #1. Personally, I lean toward option #3. Here is how I would explain the prophecy in Job 19:25-29: Job’s Redeemer arose on the dust when He answered Job out of the whirlwind. (Job 38:1) After God’s “archers” / “troops” (Job’s accusers) surrounded and devoured Job, and after Job was filled up with the afflictions of his flesh, he was redeemed from his sufferings and was vindicated as “a perfect and upright man,” and his enemies were judged. (Compare Job 19:29 and 42:7-9) Thus, Job from his flesh saw God:
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen You.” (Job 42:5)
I Question: A human being is a body AND a soul AND a spirit. Preterists say that the Church will never be raised from physical death. Ergo, preterism clearly teaches that dead believers are disembodied spirits forever and ever. They are no longer truly human. What’s your defense against this?
Preterist Answer: If we must be in our bodies in order to be “truly human,” then all those who have died and supposedly await the “Resurrection of the Flesh” are not truly human today. They must be “un-humans” who cannot be human again until they are reunited with their bodies at the end of history.
Futurists who argue that “man” minus “his body” equals “non-man,” argue recklessly. They “prove too much.” They in effect deprive our departed loved ones of their humanity until the end of the world. The Bible nowhere suggests that those who die become “non-humans” until they are resurrected. The Resurrection of the dead is never characterized as the restoration of former humans back to their lost humanity.
Jesus in fact made reference to a “man” in Hades, (Lk. 16:22-23) and Paul spoke of the possibility that a “man” was caught up, “out of the body,” to “the third heaven.” (II Cor. 12:2) In both of these instances, the “man” was the spirit of the man, out of the body. (cf. I Cor. 2:11) The departed spirit (and soul) of the believer is a human spirit, and it corresponds to the “inner man” (i.e., the inner human). (Rom. 7:22; II Cor. 4:16; Eph. 3:16; 4:23)
The departed spirit of the believer is not an inhuman, wraithlike phantom, like some sort of an exorcized demon; and it is not a quivering, shapeless “mist” like some kind of escaped gas. In contrast to such wildly extra-Scriptural notions, the Bible teaches us that the spirits of the saints in Heaven (Heb. 12:22-23) are “like the angels,” (Matt. 22:30; Mk. 12:25; Heb. 1:7) and that they are not “naked,” but are “clothed” with everlasting Righteousness. (Rev. 6:9-11; 14:13; 15:6; 19:8,14)
J Question: In I Cor. 15:1-19, Paul said that some at the church in Corinth were saying, “There is no resurrection of the dead.” Were those resurrection deniers saying that it was unbelievable that decomposed, dead bodies could be raised back to life? Were they annihilationists? Or did they believe in “bodiless soul-immortality?”
Preterist Answer: The error in the church at Corinth was not an objection to the idea of dead bodies being raised back to life. The error was not a scientific skepticism about the reanimation of decomposed corpses. Nor was it a belief in annihilation or in bodiless soul-immortality. The error at Corinth was a denial that the pre-Christian saints would be raised up in Christ with the Church in the end of the age. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers looked forward to the resurrection of the Body of Christ, (the Church) but they denied that the pre-Cross world (the dead) had any part in that Body. The long answer:
The reason that some believers in the church at Corinth could not accept the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was because they believed that the dead had no body with which they could be raised. (I Cor. 15:12-13, 35). In our deeply engrained futurist mindsets, the meaning of the error under discussion in First Corinthians chapter fifteen seems, at first, simple and straightforward. Our futurist ears tell us that there were some at Corinth who thought that it was beyond belief that dead bodies could be reconstituted and brought back to life. We reflexively think that some at Corinth were saying: How could the dead come back to life? They will have no bodies with which to rise. Their bodies have decomposed and turned to dust over time. Futurism has greatly clouded First Corinthians chapter fifteen. It has caused countless interpreters to disagree with other countless interpreters as to its meaning. Even as preterists today, we find it difficult to read the chapter apart from deeply entrenched futurist assumptions. The chapter has thus always been, in varying degrees, an enigma for futurists who study it closely, and it remains even now a passage of some contention among preterists.
One aspect of First Corinthians chapter fifteen that makes it difficult to interpret for both futurists and preterists is the implicit nature of Paul’s arguments. Reading Paul’s refutation of the error at Corinth is a bit like listening to one side of a phone conversation. We read what Paul said against the error, but we do not see the error itself described in much detail.
The only way to understand the error at Corinth correctly is to draw numerous inferences from Paul’s refutation of it. If we do not make the correct inferences from Paul’s arguments, we will not only misunderstand the error, but we will also misunderstand the defense against the error. And that in turn will cause us to misinterpret Paul’s teachings about the resurrection of the dead. And because First Corinthians chapter fifteen is the lengthiest dissertation on the resurrection of the dead found in all of Scripture, correctly understanding the biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the dead depends very much on our making correct (biblical) inferences from the chapter. I believe that in order for us to understand Paul’s teaching concerning the resurrection of the dead in First Corinthians chapter fifteen, there are two primary inferences that we must draw from his refutation of the error at Corinth:
1. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in previous resurrections:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. (I Cor. 15:13-16)
In the above Scripture, Paul showed the resurrection deniers the monstrously absurd results of their error. He reduced their doctrine to conclusions that they did not assert. What we may infer from Paul’s reductio ad absurdum is that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers already agreed with Paul on these points:
1. Christ HAD been raised.
2. The apostolic preaching was NOT vain.
3. The faith of believers was NOT vain.
4. The apostles were NOT false witnesses of God
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in the physical / biological, historical resurrection of Christ (who Himself had raised Lazarus from the dead after four days), (I Cor. 15:13,16) and they believed in the authority and veracity of the apostles (who themselves had raised dead people back to life). (I Cor. 15:14-15) (We might also add that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were members of the church at Corinth, which was filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healings and miracles).
Yet the resurrection deniers could not accept the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, because they could not conceive of how the dead could have a body with which to be raised. (I Cor. 15:35) The very idea was beyond their belief. How could this be? Futurism causes us to impose an absurdity upon the chapter. It forces us to maintain that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers could not conceive of how dead bodies could be raised back to life, even though they believed in the resurrected and resurrecting Christ and were followers of the dead-raising apostles and were members of the gift-filled (and perhaps even dead-raising) church at Corinth. Granted, the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers at Corinth were ignorant and foolish as to the implications of their doctrine, but it is not reasonable to portray them as arguing in schizophrenic non sequiturs (believing in the resurrection of dead people and not being able to conceive of the possibility at the very same time). It is much more likely that our futurist premise is flawed, that the resurrection deniers were not objecting to a future “Resurrection of the Flesh,” and that their objection, “With what body…,” (I Cor. 15:35) was not an objection to physical / biological resurrections(resucitations).
2. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in future resurrections.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we are hoping in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (I Cor. 15:17-19)
Paul here continued his argument to absurdity. If the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were right, then other doctrines –doctrines that they did not assert– were also true. What we may infer from the above Scripture is that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers agreed with Paul on the following points:
1. Christ HAD been raised.
2. The faith of believers was NOT vain or worthless.
3. Believers were NOT still in their sins.
4. Those who had fallen asleep in Christ had NOT perished (i.e., They had NOT died in their sins).
5. The apostolic preaching was NOT vain.
6. The apostles were NOT found to be false witnesses of God.
7. The apostles did NOT have an empty and fleeting “hope” in Christ, and were therefore NOT of all men most to be pitied.
If Christ had not been raised from the dead, then the sufferings that the apostles were experiencing “in this life” were the sum total of their “hope” in Christ, and they were of all men most to be pitied. Paul’s argument above implies that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers rejected that notion. They, along with the apostles, had an eschatological “hope,” (I Tim. 4:8) and they also believed that those who had fallen asleep in Christ were waiting with them for the fulfillment of that Hope.
Paul and the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers agreed that the apostles and all believers were hoping in Christ, and they agreed that believers continued to hope in Christ after they had fallen asleep in Christ. And the Hope of all believers was the Resurrection at the Parousia. The hope of Paul and of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers was that they and all Christians, living and dead, would be raised up the spiritual Body. See verse 46: However, the spiritual [body] is not first, but the natural [body]; then the spiritual [body]. (I Cor. 15:46).
The implication of that argument is that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in the Christological, spiritual body, but denied its connection to the first, Adamic, natural body. Their error was like denying that trees come from seeds. (I Cor. 15:37) Though the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers denied that “the dead” were going to be raised, they agreed that those who had fallen asleep in Christ (the dead in Christ) had not perished and were waiting, with living believers, in hope of being raised with the spiritual body, i.e., the body that will be, in I cor. 15:37.
Again, either the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were steeped in abject absurdity –believing in the resurrection of dead people and being unable to conceive of the fact at the very same time– or we need to consider that our fleshly assumptions about the nature of the resurrection of the dead are not in harmony with the assumptions of both Paul and the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers.
How could they have believed in previous resurrections, including the resurrection of Christ, and yet have been unable to conceive of the very possibility of future resurrections? And how could they have believed in the future resurrection of Christians (the spiritual “body that will be”) and yet deny the future resurrection of “the dead?”
In the futurist framework, these questions are unanswerable. The questions themselves seem invalid. But in the preterist framework, the answers come to light:
The Corinthians knew that the resurrection of the dead was about to happen when Paul wrote First Corinthians. (Acts 24:15) It was going to happen before all of Paul’s contemporaries fell asleep. (I Cor. 15:51; cf. Matt. 16:27-28) The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers and all believers of Christ’s generation were acutely aware that they were living in the consummation of the ages. (I Cor. 10:11) They knew that the time had been shortened (I Cor 7:29) and that the old, pre-Christ world was passing away. (I Cor. 7:31)
In that historical-covenantal moment, there was a distinction between the great cloud of saints who had before lived and died in the now-fading old world, and the members of the Body of Christ who were now about to inherit the eternal Kingdom. (I Cor. 15:18; I Thess. 4:16) There was a distinction between those saints who, for millennia, had gone to Sheol / Hades, and Christians who died in Christ and who now immediately went to be with Christ in anticipation of coming back quickly with Him to judge the world, the living and the dead. (Phil. 1:23)
The “dead ones” in the context of First Corinthians chapter fifteen were those “out from among” whom Christ had been raised. (I Cor. 15:12,20) Christ had been among the Hadean dead. When He was dead, He was among the generations of saints who had died from Adam (I Cor. 15:21-22,45,47) until the Cross. He was raised out from among those souls. Those were the dead ones whose resurrection some in the church at Corinth denied.
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers did not deny the resurrection of Christians, living or dead. They denied only that the dead would have any part with the soon-to-be-resurrected Church. They believed that all the pre-Cross generations had fallen asleep without hope of receiving forgiveness of sins in Christ, and that those dead ones would therefore not inherit the Kingdom of God with the Body of Christ.
The root error of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers was that Christ had not died for the pre-Christian world.
Contrary to futurist myth, the objection of the resurrection-of-the-dead-denying believers at Corinth was redemptive, not scientific. Neither Paul nor those in error at Corinth knew anything of a “Resurrection of the Flesh” on the Last Day. There was no cause for the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers to raise objections about molecules, or about the food chain. Their objection was not that it was impossible for God to re-assemble dust particles of decomposed corpses. (It is more than probable that the miracle-believing resurrection-of-the-dead deniers would have agreed that such a re-assembly is indeed easy for God to accomplish.) Paul was not defending such a re-composition and neither were the resurrection deniers objecting to the possibility of such a re-composition.
The error at Corinth was not a belief in the impossibility of physical resurrections. For the resurrection deniers believed in the resurrection of Christ and in other resurrections. They also were waiting in the “hope” that all Christians, living and dead, would be raised up on the Last Day.
The error at Corinth was not a belief in annihilation. For the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed that dead Christians had not perished and were waiting in “hope” along with the living.
Nor was the error a belief in soul-immortality. For the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed that dead believers were, with the living, hoping in Christ, looking forward to the consummated spiritual Body, the Body that would come in the Resurrection of life. (Jn. 5:29)
The error at Corinth was that the pre-Christian world (the dead, i.e., Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Malachi, etc.) would not participate in the impending Resurrection. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers looked forward to the Day when the Body of Christ would inheriting the Kingdom of God, (I Cor. 15:50) but they excluded “the dead” from that Hope.
K Question: In Rom. 8:11, Paul said that God was going to give life to the “mortal bodies” of believers. How exactly was this fulfilled at a first-century Parousia of Christ? If the “mortal bodies” of those pre-parousia saints were cast off and remain in the dust to this day, how could their “mortal bodies” have been made alive?
Preterist Answer: “And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through the indwelling of His Spirit in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8:10-13). The word “body”/“bodies” in Rom. 6:6,12; 7:24; 8:10,11,13,23 (and in parallel Scriptures) does not mean “the physical part of man.” The “body” does not refer to a part of man. The “body” is man. It is “man” himself (Rom. 6:11,13,16) in the context of his covenant-world. Whether the word is used in reference to a collective humanity or to individuals, the “body” is man as he is defined by and wholly summed up in Adamic Sin or in Christological Righteousness.
The constituent parts of man in Adam (i.e., the “members” of the Adamic body) were the sinful practices committed under the condemnation of God’s commandments: “Therefore put to death your members on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5)”…If you through the Spirit put to death the practices of the body, you shall live.” (Rom. 8:13
Whereas the “members” of man in Christ (i.e., the “members” of “the new man,” the Christological body) are the Spirit-empowered practices of those who are no longer under the condemnation of God. The two contrasting bodily states in Rom. 6-8 therefore depend on neither physicality nor non-physicality. They depend only on one’s relation to Adam or to Christ. They depend on whether one is in Adam (i.e., of the old world, under the law and dead in Sin) or in Christ (of the new world, under grace and indwelt by the life-giving Spirit). Whether biologically alive or not, all the elect before Christ were the very embodiment, fullness and habitation of Sin. But now in Christ, through faith in His shed blood, all of His saints in heaven and on earth are together the embodiment, fullness and habitation of God Himself. As a comparison of Col. 2:11 and Col. 3:9 confirms, the “body” of Sin was the “old man” (Rom. 6:6; 7:24)”…the putting off of the body of the sins….”(Col. 2:11)”…having put off the old man with his practices.” (Col. 3:9; cf. Eph. 4:22)
Compare also Rom. 6:6 and Rom. 8:10 “…Our old man is crucified with Him…”(Rom. 6:6 “If Christ be in you, the body is dead…” (Rom. 8:10). The “body” of Sin was pre-Christ humanity. It was man as the whole organization of Sin and Death. It was man in slavery and bondage under the reign of Sin and Death (Rom. 6:1,2,7,9,13,14,17,19,20-23; 7:6,9-11,13,14,23; 8:2,6,10,15,21). It was unredeemed man alienated from God, under the condemnation and obligation of the letter of the law (Rom. 6:14; 7:4,6; 8:4,7,12,23). It was man in futility and fruitlessness, under the control of Sin, unable to avoid the condemnation of God’s law (Rom. 7:4,5,15,18,19,21,23; 8:7-9,13,20). It was man living in spiritual “weakness,” “dishonor,” “corruption” and “mortality” under the sin-increasing power of Sin through the law (Rom. 5:20; 7:8,13). It was “natural”/”fleshly” man indwelt by Sin instead of by the Spirit of God (Rom. 7:5,14,17,18,20,23,25; 8:3-5,9,12,13).
In the Last Days of the Adamic ages, the Holy Spirit made His dwelling in believers through the righteousness of Christ; and through that indwelling, their body of Sin and Death (their old world-identity, they’re Adamic “man” or self) died (Rom. 8:9). Through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, believers were buried bodily with Christ into His death (Rom. 6:3-5). They died bodily with Christ to the old world of Sin (Rom. 6:2,7,8,11). Their “old man,” the “body of sin” –the whole Adamic cosmos – was crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 6:14). Insofar as believers were being conformed to Christ’s death through the eschatological, covenant-changing work of the Holy Spirit, their old, Adamic selves were dead and their life was hid with the soon-to-be-revealed Savior of the world (Rom. 6:11,13; Phil. 3:10; Col. 3:3).
Believers “worked out” their death with Christ in the last days of the Adamic ages by daily putting to death their old “man,” that is, by daily “mortifying” the practices, or members, of their “earthly [Adamic] body” or humanity. The goal of their dying was that the “body of Sin” would be abolished in Christ and that Sin and Death would no longer reign through Adam (Rom. 6:12; 8:13; Col. 3:5).
Thus, it was through the same indwelling of the Holy Spirit that their mortal bodies were consummately changed and made alive on the Last Day. As Paul said later in his epistle to the Romans, believers were putting off the works of darkness (putting to death the deeds / members of the body) and were putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. Each individual believer was putting off the body of Sin and Death and was putting on the body of Christ (i.e., the new Christological Humanity which would be the eternal embodiment and habitation of the Righteousness and Life of Christ) (Rom. 13:12-14).
The world-changing / man-changing / body-changing work of the indwelling Holy Spirit was consummated in the Parousia of Christ, when God swept away the Adamic, pre-Christ world of Sin, Death, condemnation, slavery and futility; when God threw down the earthly, mortal, man-made tent / house / body (the old-covenant world) and clothed His Spirit-sanctified, universal Church with the eternal Tabernacle / House / Body of God from out of Heaven in A.D. 70 (I Cor. 5:1-4).
That is when all the saints, living and dead, were redeemed. That is when their Adamic “body” / “man” was made new, was conformed to the image of the Son of God (sonship), and was made the eternal Temple of the Triune God (Rom. 8:23,29; I Cor. 15:49; II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:5). That is when their “mortal bodies” (their old, sinful selves in Adam) were abolished, resurrected, transformed / changed and clothed with eternal life (Rom. 6:6; 8:11; I Cor. 15:22; Phil. 3:21).
To Be Continued In Part 3 – B: Alternative Answers.